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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Fury, Review: What war does to you

Fury, Review: What war does to you

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European war-zone, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) Collier commands a Sherman tank and its five-man crew, on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. He is the only survivor in a deadly German ambush, but manages to stay hidden till they leave, and drives his tank back to base. There, after barely recovering from the battle, he is sent on another mission, with a new crew. Outnumbered and outgunned, with a reluctant, rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men embark on two successive but potentially fatal missions against overwhelming odds, in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany and keep their supply chains open.

Fury is written and directed by David Ayer (Street Kings, End of Watch, Harsh Times) who said about the project, “It will bring a fresh execution to the genre. What these men went through is worthy of a complex, honest portrayal. This will have incredible, visceral action and complex rich characters. I plan to bring tank combat to life in a way that lands with a modern audience." Lofty words, but not altogether tall claims, by any yard-stick.

Fury is something that Ayer, a US Navy veteran, has wanted to make since he was a kid: “But only in the same outlandish way that I wanted to be an astronaut who goes to Mars.” Ayer grew up as part of a military family. Both his grandfathers served in the second World War, but never talked about it. “My family have always been good at fighting in America’s wars. And even though those experiences might have shaped them, they left those wars overseas. It’s part of what made me curious.”

The film comes across as a war thriller more in the tradition of Guns of Navarone than the broad canvas of The Longest Day, which helps keep the focus. Characters are portrayed not as mere soldiers or war victims but humans who have layers of sensitivity. Hardened war veterans exhibit a hidden soft side while a religious draftee, a former typist, develops a sadistic streak. Personal differences almost break the unit apart, only for patriotic emergencies to re-unite them in no time.

In David Ayer’s script and treatment, there is gory violence and there are heart-rending emotions, no holds barred warfare and the tear-jerking plight of the innocent war victims and pacifists. The protagonists are heroes and skilled fighters, but neither invincible nor angelic. They win some, they lose some. What motivates them is a complete conviction, as enunciated by Wardaddy, that the German SS is the sadistic scum of the earth, and every member of the German army must be annihilated at the first opportunity.

Brad Pitt as Collier is better than his usual self, much better. Even better than Inglorious Basterds, which might have partly inspired this film. He immerses himself deeply into the role and comes up with a worthy performance. Shia LeBeouf (Transformers, Nymphomaniac) plays Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan, the most religious member of the unit, often quoting the Bible and asking people about their denominations. In spite of a soft face and handsome looks, he played the dark character in Nymphomaniac quite convincingly. He is in good form here too.

Jon Bernthal plays Grady Coon-Ass Travis, the mechanic and ammo loader of the team, impulsive and fight-loving. Michael Pena’s character, Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia, probably gets the least footage. He makes his presence felt, nevertheless. Logan Lerman, the Jewish actor who played one of Noah’s sons in the 2013 film, is cast as Norman Ellison. While his initial trauma at being forced into the army and asked to do battle duty almost immediately is well conveyed, the transformation into a trigger-happy assassin is not as effective. Scott Clinton Reeves Eastwood (the last name says it all; Texas Chainsaw 3D, Gran Torino) plays Sergeant Miles. Anamaria Marinca as Irma and Alicia von Rittberg as Emma, along with Pitt, Bernthal and Logan Lerman, appear in what I consider the most tense, compelling scenes of the film. And these scenes do not involve any fighting, except for Pitt breaking a glass.

A word about the accents: Once again, some vital dialogue must have been lost while international ears grapple with the accents in the film. In turn, that could seriously affect the enjoyment of the film by general audiences and the reviews and ratings done by critics. Another case for sub-titling of even English language films?

Tobacco in the tank

Brad Pitt: "We were driving down the road. I'm in the turret, Shia is at the other turret, and Scott is on the back, spitting juice. And I'm starting to get pissed off, I'm starting to get hot, because this is our home, he’s disrespecting our home, you know? So I said, in the scene with the cameras rolling, 'You're going to clean that (bleep) up’.

Shia saw it and felt the same--he’s disrespecting our home. So Shia had the same reaction I did and started having some words. With LaBeouf involved and cameras rolling, Pitt felt the need to mediate the heated scenario--only to realise later that it was his own fault.

"I had to get in after the cameras were rolling and explain it to Scotty," Pitt said. "The funny thing is, when we got home at the end of the day and read the script, it said Scotty's character is 'chewing tobacco and spitting it on the back of the tank.' He was just doing as instructed in the script! So we were the knobs in the end…."

Last words from Eastwood: "Pitt is a kind and humble person, which is everything in this world."

All was apparently forgotten and forgiven. All was well as it ended well.

Rating: ***1/2

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

India



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